Alien Isolation review

Posted: October 13, 2014 by ryanlecocq in Reviews

aleiniso

In space no one can hear you scream.  So hopefully your living room is in space.

After playing this game, I really had to sit back and think how long it had been since a game scared me like this.  I would have to say either the first half of Resident Evil 4 or the blood room in Silent Hill 3.  Either way, I haven’t felt that “Oh shit, it’s coming!” feeling to this level of intensity from a game in about 10 years.  In fact, that’s pretty much this whole game.  This game is a really well trained one trick pony that basically just tries to wring out your fear of being pursued to the very extreme.  That’s not to say that it’s too boring or repetitive.  It just keeps you running and hiding for its’ entire length with only the briefest moments where you get to kick something’s ass (mostly terrified humans and renegade synthetics).  Although the game is maybe 20% longer than really necessary, if you love being scared then this is the game for you.

One thing I want to praise right from the get-go is the graphics design and its’ reverence for the source material.  I’ll spare you the lengthy special features reel about how they based all models off props available at the time and just say it looks exactly like Alien.  Every switch, console and door looks like it came from just out of frame in the original film.  The sound effects are also perfect.  I think mostly because of Alien, I have a fiction fetish for technology that is futuristic and retro at once.  Much like Dead Space 3, this game is a wonderland of big glowing plastic buttons and analog green screens.  The alien itself is also much closer to the first film’s design as opposed to the more ‘army ant’ style of the warriors in the sequels.  This makes sense as the game is following the first movie, but was refreshing as all other Alien based properties have stayed with the most recent versions as seen in the newer movies.

The gameplay and controls are spot on to the point where I can only blame myself for my many deaths.  Since the release of the Souls games, I hold this as the gold standard of a difficult game.  It cannot have wonky controls or glitchy animations that make death anything but a well-deserved end caused by poor decisions.   Isolation follows this code to the T.  If you think the Alien killed you for unfair reasons, check yourself.  Did you use the motion tracker or other noise producing device?  Did it see you enter the room?  Was there only one possible hiding place in the area it chased you into?  All of these are logical reasons that led the alien to your location, whether you were hiding or not.  The AI of the alien is especially impressive as it will not just follow simple cues like the guards in and MGS game.  It will generally narrow down the area you are hiding in to the point where if you hide in one locker repeatedly, it will figure it out.  Once the alien is sure you are hiding in a room, it will just patrol around it and sniff the hiding places until it finds you.  While this lead to much indignant yelling on my part, in each case I knew what had given me away and could only blame myself.

Much like the Souls series, one has to address the elephant in the room and mention the difficulty.  If you are not paid to play games all day and want to finish this in your lifetime, play on Easy.  Normally I would never do this, but in this game even easy is harder than most other games.  I started on hard and soon realized that this was not a short game and would take me weeks to finish at that rate with the time I have to play it.  So I kicked it down to normal in the toughest parts… still almost impossible.  On easy I found that I could actually make progress without spending hours on each section of each level.  If you’ve got your pride to worry about, don’t hesitate to challenge yourself with the higher difficulties.  Just know that I am an experienced stealth gamer and don’t find games like MGS or Thief to be particularly challenging.  By comparison this game is extremely unforgiving as well as having an old-school manual saving method with only a few automatic checkpoints.  No matter how good you are, this game is really, really hard.  You have been warned.

I should briefly address the save system.  I think this was a design choice to reference the ‘old-and-new’ technology of the game, but be warned this game requires manual saves.  If you are young and don’t remember those days, this means you have to save your game at save points like all Resident Evil games before 5.  The mechanic is very similar, using wall-mounted data stations to save your game.  I grew up on that and still play those games, so not much worry for me.  Just beware that if you are used to constant autosavving, you may have to train yourself to avoid lost progress.

Overall Alien Isolation is the Alien game you have been waiting for.  Above and beyond that, it’s one of the best survival horror games in years.  It does go a little long.  Much like the movie, you will think you have killed the Alien on several occasions before the credits finally roll.  It’s only a little limiting to know from Aliens that Amanda survives the game, because without the tireless work of your thumbs, she won’t and you’ll never beat it.  This is one of the hardest, scariest games in years and I would put it at the top of my list of recommendations for any horror or Alien fan.

10/10

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